The Jefferson Davis Diggs Elementary School was dedicated to Mr. Diggs on November 12, 1953, shortly before his death the following July. He was born February 14, 1865,on the east side of the Pee Dee River in Anson County, N.C. to a slave girl named Katie Diggs. He was raised by his grandmother after his mother's death when he was three years old. His grandmother required him to study at night. He graduated fron Bennett College in 1899 with a BA. In 1905 he earned his Master's Degree in Ancient Literature from the Christian College of Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Divinity by Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C. He married Elizabeth Murphy on April 26, 1885, and they had fourteen children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood. He was a carpenter, mechanic, minister and community leader. He was elected Bishop of the Northwestern District of N.C. and most of West Virginia of the United Holy Church of America, was director of Religious Education for over 20 years and was a teacher for 14 years. He organized the first public graded school in Hickory, N.C. in 1891, and in 1897 he organized the first public school in Maxton, N.C. He moved to Winston-Salem in 1899, where he helped lay out the school district to prevent racial friction. In addition to the school, Diggs Boulevard was named in his honor which is near property that he owned, and in 1987, the Jefferson Davis Diggs Education Wing of the new Albert H. Anderson Center was named for him at Winston-Salem State Universty. Jefferson Davis Diggs worked his way from abject poverty to a place of distinction in a very unforgiving time. He was truly a leader of his people. He is also the grandfather of one of the 11 African American students who were arrested in Greensboro during the now famous Sit-in.
"On Feb. 23, 11 African-American students at Winston-Salem Teachers College and 10 white students at Wake Forest joined the protest. When they refused to leave, they were arrested, jailed, and found guilty of trespassing. This demonstration was unique in that it brought white and black students together to use peaceful, passive resistance to advocate integration.
The students arrested at this sit-in from Winston-Salem Teachers College were Royal Joe Abbitt, Everette L. Dudley, Deloris M. Reeves, Victor Johnson Jr., William Andrew Bright, Bruce Gaither, Jefferson Davis Diggs III, Algemenia Giles, Donald C. Bradley, Lafayette A. Cook and Ulysses Grant Green; and from Wake Forest University were Linda G. Cohen, Linda Guy, Margaret Ann Dutton, Bill Stevens, Joe Chandler, Don F. Bailey, Paul Watson, Anthony Wayland Johnson, George Williamson and Jerry Wilson.
Three months after the sit-ins began, city officials and store managers reached an agreement and on May 25, 1960, Winston-Salem became the first community in North Carolina to desegregate its lunch counters. "Photos courtesy Digital Forsyth.orgDiggs School Verse ChoirDiggs Elementary School students pose with their teacher, Mrs. Baldwin; circa 1965Childrens Verse Choir from Diggs Elementary School next to the Happy Hill Gardens community in Winston-Salem, c. 1965.